Floods a year ago took everything from Vivian resident Gwen Smith.
“I lost my home completely,” she said.
Before the flood hit on March 9, 2016, Smith had lived most of her adult life in the mobile home. For two weeks, she lived with a close friend. Then, for two months, she lived on a houseboat loaned to her by a neighbor.
Finally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, granted her a brand new home.
In early March, standing between her new white double-wide trailer and the houseboat where she watched the waters recede during months filled with anxiety and trepidation, Smith said she’s blessed. She even chose to get baptized in the same water that sourced the floods.
“I’m glad everything is the way it is now. I hope I never have to see another flood, but I’m in a lot better place now,” Smith said. “It’s brought me closer to God.”
Others haven’t been so lucky.
Times’ interviews, particularly with those from low-income areas or who didn’t have flood insurance, showed many are still reeling from the March 2016 flood‘s repercussions almost a year later.
Brittany Herring and her husband James Moore, who live with their four young children in Oil City, helped dozens of people when Ferry Lake School Road flooded.
Herring said many in her area have still not recovered from the floods or have not been reimbursed by FEMA.
“It’s made me think of how you can lose everything in the blink of an eye,” Herring said. “These people are older, people who have worked their whole lives, and they go from having everything to having nothing.”
Herring said she is starting a GoFundMe account for former Shreveport city employee David Rogers and his wife because black mold has made their former home uninhabitable. The couple has been living in a camper since the floods, Herring said.
Rogers, a retired mechanic, said FEMA reimbursed $14,000 – “nowhere near enough.”
He said he and his wife are living in the camper out of necessity.
“We don’t have near the amenities we had, and half the things don’t work,” Rogers said. “But we live on fixed income, and we don’t have the money to move.”
Rogers said he also can’t afford flood insurance because rates have risen since the March floods. He said the community came together “to a point” during the floods but that he’s largely been left on his own.
Asked how he found the strength to face his current situation, Rogers shrugged.
“You only have one of two choices,” he said. “You either lay down and die or keep kicking.”
Family portraits of her two smiling children and quotes about family and faith line the walls in the mobile home where Lori Hightower Grogan and her young daughter live in Pecan Valley Estates, in Bossier City.
“I’m living with black mold and sinkholes. I’m still fighting with FEMA,” Grogan said. “A year later, and I’m still in the same place and looking for another place to live.”
But the floods also swept away the sense of security Grogan had tried to build for herself and her daughter.
“I had been in an abusive relationship. I had bought us a house no one could take away, and a year later, the flood took it from us,” she said.
Grogan said she’s tried to kill the black mold pockmarking the crevices and walls of the mobile home and coming into the trailer through her vents, to no avail.
“This stuff doesn’t want to die,” she said, gesturing at a foot-long stain.
Grogan said FEMA did provide some funds for damage. But she estimated she lost at least $8,000 in damages that FEMA didn’t cover and her health suffered from living with the black mold.
She didn’t want to leave the mobile home during the floods – she said she was one of the last in the mobile home park to evacuate – but now she is “desperate” to find a safe place to live.
Demetrius Christaw, also a resident of Pecan Valley Estates, said he and his family are still repairing flood damage.
Christaw said the family spent hundreds of dollars and at least six months of work to replace their air conditioner, battle encroaching black mold and redo insulation and carpet.
Christaw said being together in the struggle against the flood’s repercussions has given him and his family the strength to get through the situation and a new appreciation for the present moment.
“It’s a strong family tie. In a time like this, everyone comes together,” Christaw.
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